Those looking for diversity in children’s books will welcome this story of a culturally eclectic apartment building in which the residents are invited by Goldie Simcha every Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, for her fragrant and delicious cholent, a traditional stew prepared by observant Jews the night before. According to the Old Testament, one should refrain from doing any work on the Sabbath, and amazingly enough, older societies acknowledged that preparation of meals by women qualified as “work.” So the tradition of cholent began. The recipe for this long-cooking stew varies, but is similar to the if-you-have-it-throw-it-in-the-crockpot idea. Eastern Europeans liked to feature beans, barley, and some sort of meat. Hungarians added paprika, Lithuanians pepper, and Poles onions and garlic. In other words, you’ve got it? you like it? Throw it in!
In this story, Goldie “doesn’t celebrate Shabbat exactly as my grandma did,” but she likes to honor her memory by making cholent every week and inviting the neighbors to share it with her, because being together is part of what it was all about.
However, one Saturday, something wasn’t right. No one could catch even the faintest whiff of the stew. Finally, a little girl knocked on Goldie’s door to see what happened. Goldie explained she was sick, and hadn’t been able to get the cholent on the stove the night before. Now it was too late. The neighbors rush to the rescue, each bringing one of their own ethnic dies to share. Soon there is Indian potato curry, Korean barley tea, Italian tomato pizza, and Spanish beans and rice.
Goldie looks around the table, her face shining, and declares “I think it tastes exactly like Shabbat.”
A recipe for vegetarian cholent is included at the end of the book.
Illustrator Kyrsten Brooker uses a colorful palate of oils and collages in a folk-art style which is exactly right for this story.
Evaluation: This story is a welcome tribute to multicultural amity. Kids will learn about different food traditions among different cultures, but also see that when someone is in need, people of all backgrounds can come together in sharing and celebration.
Published by Candlewick Press, 2014